What if my values turn people off?

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how mindfully running a business is sort of like dating. The week of Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect time to explore this.

If you read dating advice or ask a friend for dating advice, you’ll hear some of the same things over and over:

• be exactly who you are and you’ll attract the right person/people

• if you are exactly who you are and they don’t like you, they aren’t your person

• get to know them; build a relationship; take things slow…then be clear about what you want

• stop looking. As soon as you stop looking, they will show up!

All of these things apply to running your business with your values! They also answer one of the questions I hear most frequently from my own clients: “What if I am leading with my values and people don’t agree with them? Won’t I lose customers?”

And the short answer is, “yes.” If you are clear about your values and use them to guide your business decisions - from marketing to hiring to what clients you will take on - you WILL lose potential customers. But, this is a good thing.

Think back on the most difficult customers you have worked with over the years or the biggest struggle you have had with your team or collaborators. If I were a betting person, I’d bet that at least one of the following is true:

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• You knew early on that this person/company/team was not a good fit for your brand and goals.

• You ignored your gut and worked with them anyway.

•You tried to be what they needed (at least once) even though it went against (at least one of) your values.

• You had a negative feeling when you saw communication from them.

• You were relieved when the relationship ended.

This is one of the best parts of leading with your values. When someone isn’t a good fit, you will know. And you will learn to trust your instincts and let them walk away.

But there is another side to that story. When someone IS a good fit, you will also know - and so will they. They will be happy to have found you and they will want to support you. They will become an advocate for your business.

When I have a potential new client meeting or phone call, and it is clear early on that we are going to do something amazing together, it almost always feels like a good first date. I end the meeting with the excitement of having gone out with someone who gave me butterflies. I can’t wait to send them the email that recaps everything, and I’m eager to be as much help and support to them as I can - much like the desire to send flowers to that person you had a great first date with!

When it is clear early on that they are not a good fit - for any number of reasons: price-point, preferred methods of communication, values they are using in their business, or goals they have - it’s so much easier for me to let that conversation go and move on to the next thing on my to-do list.

I no longer spend hours trying to present myself in a way that will attract a certain kind of client or collaborator. Instead, I spend hours trying to be the best version of myself and trust that that version will attract exactly who I should be working with.

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There ARE times when we don’t know right away. Or times when we are working with someone and something starts to feel off. To me, this is like the middle of dating. The part where you like them enough to go out again, but you aren’t ready to introduce them to your friends. And just like we should be comfortable saying to someone we are dating, “Hey, turns out this isn’t what I’m looking for, but I wish you all the best,” I believe we should have the same confidence to say to a client, employee, or collaborator, “Hey, turns out our values/work styles/expectations aren’t in alignment. I want you to be successful, and I think that will happen more easily for you if you work with someone who is on the same page as you.”

Or some version of that.

And if you do part with someone, and you find yourself second-guessing the decision (or if someone breaks up with your business), just go back to your values and remember what led to that decision. Then take a moment and be grateful for the space that was just created so that someone new and amazing can come in and become your next client/team member/collaborator.

Because I don’t know about you - but I want every interaction I have with a client to feel like I’ve just left Sunday Brunch full of all my favorite things.